After 70 years, the U.K. has a new queen — but her role is different. It was also a point of contention.
King Charles III ascended to the throne after his mother’s death. His wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is now known as Queen Consort.
So what is a Queen Consort, and how is Camilla’s role different from that of the last queen? According to the royal family’s official website, the role of a consort is mostly “to provide companionship and moral and practical support” to the monarch. There is no formal government position for the role, and the website says Queen Elizabeth’s late husband Prince Philip did not see State papers to hold official audiences.
The most recent Queen Consort in British history was George VI’s wife Queen Elizabeth, known in later years as the Queen Mother after her daughter became monarch in 1952.
It wasn’t guaranteed that Camilla, 75, would take the title due to sensitivity about her status as Charles’ second wife — and the wave of grief that washed over Britain following the death of his former wife, Princess Diana, in a car crash in 1997. Charles and the royal household have moved carefully on the matter.
When Camilla and Charles married in 2005, she was in fact the new Princess of Wales — Diana’s title — but she styled herself the Duchess of Cornwall instead.
Why not ‘Princess Consort’?
Palace officials said for years that Camilla “intended” to be known as “Princess Consort” — instead of the traditional “Queen Consort” — when Charles acceded to the throne. It would be a title without precedent.
In a 2010 interview with NBC, Charles was asked if Camilla would become “Queen of England, if and when you become the monarch.” He hesitated as he replied, “That’s, well … We’ll see, won’t we? That could be.”
The question was settled not long before Queen Elizabeth’s death. Marking her 70th year on the throne in February 2022, she declared that she wanted Camilla to take the title.
“When, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes king, I know you will give him and his wife, Camilla, the same support that you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service,” Queen Elizabeth said.
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